Startup Milwaukeean of the Week: Jeff Koser

jeffk-zebras Jeff is the spirited leader of Selling to Zebras, Inc., a metrics-driven software sales enablement company.

Passionate about changing the way organizations sell, Jeff provides sales professionals with processes, tools and software that improve sales and emphasize results over busy work.  Most recently, under Jeff’s leadership, Selling to Zebras developed software that empowers sales people to manage the Selling to Zebras process in real time from the field.

Jeff has more than 30 years’ experience in leadership roles in sales, operations and marketing. He is the award-winning co-author of Selling to Zebras HOW TO CLOSE 90% of the BUSINESS YOU PURSUE FASTER, MORE EASILY and MORE PROFITABLY.  In 2010, he was recognized as one of the best sales authors of all time in the book, The Sales Gurus.

Prior to founding Selling to Zebras, Jeff was Chief Operations Officer for Baan Supply Chain Solutions. Under his leadership, revenues grew more than tenfold in five years. Earlier in his career, Jeff held management and sales positions at companies such as NCR Corporation, MAI Basic Four and Xerox Computer Services.

At what point did you become interested in entrepreneurship?

In 1994 I joined a small Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software company headquartered in The Netherlands. Our first task was to figure out how to compete and win against large formidable companies like Oracle and SAP. We developed a profile of the type company who would have the courage to buy from a software company that they had never heard of. We failed early, and often. The excitement of figuring out everything, from the go-to-market strategy, to basic business functions like payroll and expense check processing, was intoxicating.

What has been the largest difficulty you have faced as an entrepreneur?

The most difficult part of being an entrepreneur is creating leverage. Key resources have to be leveraged across the business to allow it to scale. Scale helps create the balance necessary so principles can work on the business rather than continuously working in the business. Someone once told me if “you are the business” then you don’t have a business. Those words stuck with me. We constantly work on creating the proper balance so the business can scale.

What makes Milwaukee a unique place to start a company?

As you read in the introduction we are a sales enablement company with software and services that helps companies sell more. One of our deliverables is “the Zebra”. A Zebra is the profile of the perfect prospect. We also have a Zebra for our business. The Selling to Zebras – Zebra includes a description of the desired cultural fit between us and our customers. Our relationship with and the culture between us and our customers sets the tone for our entire business.

Milwaukee is a great place to start a business because of the people. The Milwaukee area university-level education system delivers people who are well rounded, grounded, honest, hard-working and nice. The culture of the business is the business. Milwaukee people allow us to build a business that is fun and makes a difference for our customers.

And it also helps that they are all Packer fans!

What piece of advice do you have for new start-ups?

Learn every week. Adjust your vision as soon as you have better information. Sell only to Zebras.

What was your favorite musical artist as a teenager?

Bob Dylan. Blood on the Tracks was my favorite Dylan album. Bob couldn’t sing back then either – but his lyrics were raw and incredible.

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